As leaders from around the world convene this week in the United Arab Emirates to kick off the 2023 United Nations climate change conference (COP28), the Renewable Fuels Association is calling on U.S. delegates at the event to “prominently highlight the U.S. biofuels industry’s remarkable contributions to the fight against global climate change.” In a letter to climate envoy John Kerry, RFA asked that U.S. leaders “…ensure renewable biofuels like ethanol are explicitly included in our nation’s plans to meet future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction commitments.”
Along with the letter, RFA submitted a brief white paper providing details on ethanol’s low-carbon benefits, the substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved under the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the road ahead toward fully carbon-neutral ethanol.
“While biofuels like ethanol have already made extraordinary contributions in the fight against climate change, America’s farmers and biofuel producers have even more to offer,” Cooper wrote. “A strong endorsement of biofuels by the U.S. delegation in Dubai would not only send a powerful signal to the global community, but it would also serve to unleash further innovation and investment in the U.S. biofuels sector. COP28 is a pivotal forum to outline the U.S. vision for low-carbon biofuels, and we look forward to continuing our work with you and the entire Biden administration to make that vision a reality.”
In the accompanying white paper on ethanol and carbon emissions, RFA Chief Economist Scott Richman laid out the groundbreaking 2021 net-zero pledge by RFA producer members and progress seen in the industry. He noted the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory estimates that ethanol reduces GHG emissions by up to 52% compared to gasoline, and that the carbon intensity of corn ethanol fell 23% from 2005 to 2019.
In 2021, RFA’s producer members pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions on average, by 2050 or sooner, and the following year a detailed roadmap report explored five distinct pathways to net-zero corn ethanol by 2050, based on a set of 28 emissions reduction actions. In a survey earlier this year, all the participating ethanol facilities reported adopting at least one tracked carbon-reduction technology in recent years, and most have adopted more than one. These plants have seen a 12 percent reduction in average carbon intensity since 2015/16.
The white paper also discusses the potential to take ethanol in directions beyond motor vehicle fuel, toward a future that includes sustainable aviation fuel and other emerging applications. The report concludes: “As countries gather for COP28, they should embrace ethanol and other renewable fuels as a proven solution for reducing emissions. With the right policies and commitments, biofuels can play a much larger role in decarbonizing transportation globally.”